I am finally back from a two week vacation, and it was definitely some of the most fun I've had in a while! Since my host family went to America for the entire two week break, I stayed in Germany, first traveling to stay with one of my CBYX friends, Emma, and her host family. While there, we met up with another close friend of ours with CBYX, Bailey, who lives close by, and took a day trip to Bremen. While there, we got to see a lot of very beautiful sites, including the Bremen Cathedral, one of the prettiest buildings I've ever seen. We also got to see a very elaborate and lavish candy shop where all kinds of chocolate and other things were sold, on Böttcherstraße, one of the biggest attractions in Bremen with the "Glockenspiel House", a building with, as the name would suggest, a bunch of bells that play cool tunes at certain times in the day. We were lucky enough to be there while the bells were playing, and getting to see a house play music is definitely something that you can't do in America!
After Bremen, the second day trip that we went on was Amsterdam (again)! Even though I had gotten to see the city for the first time only a week earlier, it was a great experience to go see it again with two of my closest friends! Fortunately for us, the weather cooperated, which allowed us to take a bunch of great pictures, one of our favorite activities. We got to also see important landmarks like Anne Frank's house and the opera house, next to the city hall. After eating more stroopwafels and taking an excessive amount of pictures, we had to go back home, only to find out that one of our trains had been canceled! Luckily there was another one an hour later, but the Dutch train system definitely did not make a very good impression on us that day.
After the week with Emma and Bailey, I then embarked on a weekend trip to Hamburg, where Experiment, one of the organizations that partners with CIEE for CBYX, was hosting a trip for exchange students. The great part was that not only were many of the friends that I made at language camp there, but also exchange students with Experiment in Germany from other countries, like Mexico, Italy, and Brazil. Getting to meet people from countries like these for the very first time was a very interesting experience for me, since they have different stories to tell than my American counterparts or the people that I have been meeting in Germany since I have been here.
Hamburg was definitely one of the prettier cities that I've gotten to see in Europe, and I would recommend every CBYXer to try and go there at some point during their year! The Elbphilharmonie, a brand new opera building built on top of an old warehouse building right on the Elbe river, is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the entire world. It is also well known for having the longest curved escalator in the entire world, another very impressive engineering feat. Perhaps my favorite thing about Hamburg, however, was the "Miniature Wonderland" museum, a collection of model railways and miniature depictions of many countries (including America!). There's even a miniature airport, where planes takeoff and land according to a flight schedule shown on a large board on the wall.
After the short pit stop in Hamburg, the last leg of my trip was in Berlin for a week, staying with my friend Marc, who I did a two week exchange with earlier this year. While there, I got to hang out with Lily again as well as Megan, the other CBYXer placed in the city. We got to watch the two horror movies currently playing in theaters, Joker and It: Chapter Two. Both were very good, but I have to say that It was a little bit better, but it was still a great experience to hang out with two more really good friends before heading back home to my host family. Berlin is definitely my favorite city in the entire world, and while there, I also traveled around looking at the city's many universities, because I am planning on spending a year in college in Berlin. Even though I had been to Berlin a couple times before, I got to see parts of the city that I had never discovered before, especially in the west. 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the differences between former East and West Germany are still extremely apparent. This was also the case when I took a day trip while staying in Berlin to Leipzig and Halle, where I got to visit Paulina, another CBYXer. Unlike Berlin, where things are closer to "normal", the rest of former East Germany gives off a very different atmosphere than the West, even down to the "Ampelmann" that greets you while waiting to cross the street.
Back in my host community in western Germany, I am definitely more knowledgable about what life is like in other parts of Germany, and that every CBYXer will have a very different experience. As we often heard during language camp, "it's not right, it's not wrong, it's just different". Although this sentence is very short and abstract, it will definitely take you very far during your year in Germany. See you soon, and bis bald!